Kolkata turns fulcrum of anti-BJP unity

Arrangements being made at Kolkata’s Parade Ground for Saturday’s rally.  

Soon after landing here, Janata Dal(S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav commended Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her effort to bring the anti-BJP parties together on one platform for a mega rally in the city’s Brigade Parade Ground on Saturday.

At least two dozen top national leaders are expected to participate in the Trinamool-hosted rally.

“We have understood that Mamataji has taken all the responsibility of bringing regional parties together and I thank her,” Mr. Gowda said.

Mr. Yadav said the “call for change which has started from West Bengal will echo across the country”. “The country wants a change; it wants a new government and a new Prime Minister. [The] message will go from Bengal and from Didi and it will be a message for change,” he said.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang, who quit the BJP a few days ago, too arrived in Kolkata by evening. Congress leaders are expected early on Saturday.

The city is covered with Trinamool’s flags and billboards featuring Ms. Banerjee and her nephew Abhisekh Banerjee, MP. The city is full of hoardings featuring three Chief Ministers, one former Prime Minister (Mr. Gowda) and leaders representing the entire anti-BJP spectrum.

“There will be so many leaders that it would be difficult to allot more than 10 minutes to each of them,” said a close aide of Ms. Banerjee. Trinamool activists have arrived from all over West Bengal and are housed in various stadiums; food is distributed at various points in the city.

Exactly 10 months ago, on March 19, 2018, Ms. Banerjee met Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to nurture the idea of an “anti-Congress, anti-BJP” federal front.

Rahul’s support

Ten months later, on the eve of her “United India Rally”, Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote to the Trinamool chief extending “support to Mamata Di on this show of unity and hope that we send a powerful message of a united India together” and dispatched one of the party’s top leaders to attend the rally. Congress Leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge will reach here on Saturday, Ms. Banerjee said.

Ms. Banerjee has indicated that she is not too keen on pushing the idea of an anti-Congress platform any more. Asked about the future of the federal front, she said on Thursday: “I’m not giving it [Saturday’s rally] any name. The regional parties will be the deciding factor.” At the same time she has also said that the “BJP will get less than 125 seats” indicating her growing preference for the Congress. Mr. Rao, who was the first big leader to back Ms. Banerjee’s plan to oppose both the BJP and Congress, is not attending the Brigade rally.

Asked what changed in the past few months for Ms. Banerjee to soften her stand, a senior Congress leader in Bengal said, “One factor is the Congress victory in three key States.” Another leader said the Congress has managed to establish “productive cooperation” with all anti-BJP forces other than Trinamool and the Aam Aadmi Party. “Ms. Banerjee perhaps realised that she may get marginalised,” the Congress leader close to Ms. Banerjee said.

Meanwhile, Congress too gave some relief to Ms. Banerjee by removing its Bengal chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a staunch anti-Mamata leader. “Her equations with Rahul Gandhi steadily improved,” said the Congress leader. However, a section of Congress is still trying to consolidate the bond with the Left in Bengal, rejecting a possible alignment with the TMC. One of them said that they will start “campaign against BJP and TMC” from next week.

“Even then that is not a problem now,” a senior TMC leader said.

“TMC can have adjustments in few seats with Congress while Congress may have adjustments in few seats with the Left,” the TMC leader said. TMC has appealed that regional political compulsions should not mar the message that is expected to be given from Saturday’s rally.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 12:27:28 AM |

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